I am not well practiced in buying the right Christmas gift. That's why this year, I bought my wife skeleton pajamas. She's wearing them, particularly in our condo when it's cold first thing in the morning. Where did I find them? Where does America shop? That's where I got them.
I was saying goodbye to my then four-year-old grandson at the Split, Croatia airport when I pinned this on him. I tried to tell him in a pre-schooler sort of way what it meant. And then I pinned it on him and said "don't worry" if you lose it. I had more, I told him.
Then I read the devotion this morning from Our Daily Bread about the birth of Jesus and how he wasn't born as a king in some sort of Trump Tower kind of place. It was like the cow farms about a half mile down from us where in spring mornings you can smell the animals and all the poop they leave in the fields.
Right now, the world seems to be awash in sin. Hate seems to be the favored four-letter word. There's an answer and that's what we are celebrating today. I have to remind myself everyday of the hope that he gives us. It's the only real hope that sticks like Gorilla Glue.
I want my grandson Xavier to never forget that and I want to encourage him to talk about it with his siblings and his cousins, as well as his friends.
By the way, the verse about Him not breaking a bruised reed is from Isaiah 42:1-4.
Because of circumstances I write about in other posts in this blog, I can really identify with the words in this song. I had never heard of Lauren Daigle until I read an email devotion from the church we used to attend-Ada Bible Church just east of Grand Rapids. The devotion is one I will print off and save and read often if not everyday.
I remember Pastor Jeff Manion preaching about identity from the same passage--I remember vividly his emphasis "Remember Who You Are."
This is a real Christmas gift from Him to all of us, including me.
When we sitting on the couch eating lunch this afternoon while watching Everybody Loves Raymond, my wife caught this on Facebook. It got me to thinking about my age and how pay attention to the location of the john when I'm out and around.
I also pee a couple times during the night. I've started to use that time to pray for my kids and grandkids and, of course, for my wife.
Should churches develop prayer lists for their senior members to use when they go to the bathroom during the middle of the night? God doesn't have hours, right? We can't wake him up. He's always awake and has a free ear to listen.
I'm going through old pictures from Yahoo's soon to be closed-down photo storage sight called Flickr and I ran across this gem from the 2003 Promise Keepers in Las Vegas. Our son Justin was studying at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and needed a break, so he and I hopped a plane from our different locations and met in Las Vegas.
It was the ultimate guys' weekend where we spent our time hearing and talking about our relationship with God. What a backdrop for a national men's Christian group. After it was over we walked the strip, ate some food and talked about everything. It was a God-given chance for a father and son to get to know each other on a more intimate basis.
We went together to 10 more PK rallies and grew that bond even tighter. I thank God for that chance and that we were able to take advantage of it.
Nothing like the threat of a major, catastrophic health event to make a believer in you for major changes like weight loss. As part of my vision care after a cornea transplant about six months ago, I had a "CAT" scan which showed that I had one carotid that was blocked a hundred percent and the other was blocked around 20 percent.
Vascular surgeons said the risk is too great for a stroke on the artery that's completely blocked. Only treatment that works is blood thinners.
At the time, I weighed 220 plus. The scales above show what I weighed this morning. My goal is 175. How'd I do it? Complete support of my wife and with the new and improved online version of Weight Watchers. Do I feel like I've deprived myself in what I can eat? Not really.
For instance, I love Greek yogurt. Now I eat plain yogurt with some fruit on top and it's great. Once a week, we'll have poached eggs with dry toast and that's great too. Can I stay at it? I've lost weight before. This time I have potential consequences if I don't keep it off.
This all makes me wonder about how many other people have blocked carotids. This all started because of decreased blood flow to my eye with the new cornea.
Because of our move from the city of Lansing to the far end of a southern suburb and because of no easy access to freeways, we decided to give Trinity Church in Lansing a try. For eight years, we had attended Ada Bible Church on the east side of Grand Rapids where we faithfully made the 50-mile trip each way every weekend.
As we--my wife and I--get to the end of another year, we are carefully evaluating what we have done this past year and what we want to change next year. Church is right on the top tier of our list.
What factors should we plug into our decision-making? By going to Trinity we have a 15-minute ride. That's certainly a consideration. Are we growing closer to God because of attending this nearby church? What else?
My life is pretty much chronicled in pictures taken with my cell phone. A lot of them involve family, especially our grandkids, what we read and what we eat.
On the top left is a shot of me just before a doctor at Michigan State University took a fine needle biopsy of my thyroid. They were checking for a malignancy on my oversized thyroid and accompanying goiter. The many needles didn't hurt and "praise God" everything right now is benign, no cancer.
Right next to it on the top row is a picture of me and one of my four grandsons. He and I had lunch together at a Pot Belly near his house. The kid is a charmer. Not much more to say about this one. It speaks for itself.
In the middle row is a shot of one of my favorite meals, a black bean burger with half a baked acorn squash. I loved it and I can't pretend to be a food snob. For me, eating something without ketchup is being "hoity toity."
The book on the right in the middle row is a Christmas present for my two year-old grandson who posed above with me. He loves trucks of all types, especially if they are big and make lots of noise. I can't wait for he and I to read it together.
More food on the third row. On the left is taco soup with lean white meat. It's one of my favorites and next to it is a dish that goes back to my childhood. Stuffed peppers has been a favorite of mine since I was a little kid. My mom made it and it was great. My wife's is better than my mom's.
Click on the pictures to make them bigger.
Do you take many pictures with your cellphone? I do. I have thousands and I like looking at them. I'm reminded everyday of how much God has blessed me.
My first picture on the left is from my breakfast this morning. Poached eggs and plain toast with strawberries without sugar. It's one of my favorite breakfasts. I'll see if I can find a picture of another favorite breakfast.
I finally got tired of asking friends "what did you say" and "can you say that again?" So as part of my recent medical experiences I went to the audiologist at my Ear, Nose and Throat practice and got my hearing tested and got some pretty decent hearing aids. I had to pick out the type, of course. But along with that, I picked out a color.
Next to that is a picture I found of my mom and dad taken after they were married. In my study, there are several boxes of photos that I inherited from my mom. I'm going through them carefully, trying to identify people and time periods.
Before poking me more than 10 times in my thyroid which has a goiter the size of an orange, the Michigan State University doctor took some time to talk about thyroid cancer and how the odds were that I didn't have it. However, he did say that if I tested positive, then it would be pretty treatable.
It was all part of my fine needle biopsy that was taken after tests showed a soft tissue mass on the back of my tongue. It was found in the process of various tests that the goiter on my thyroid was the size of an orange and that my thyroid had dropped down into my chest from my neck.
I found that the biopsy was pretty easy, compared to the biopsy of my tongue more than two weeks ago where a sample was taken in the operating room with me under a general anesthetic. The doctor used a variety of syringes to take samples directly from my thyroid. The cells have been shipped to a pathologist in New York. Results should be back by a week from this past Wednesday.
Any after effects from the biopsy? My neck and throat are sore. No pain, but some soreness.
For me, the threat of cancer has had a cleansing effect. I quickly clarified my values and what I want to do with the rest of my life. The list is short, but would center around my relationship with God, with my wife and with the rest of my family. I could come up with a "bucket list" real quick.
I pray a whole lot more. I'm not sure if God had to put on extra staff to hear my prayers. I'm praying for a wider group of people, including those who we deliver Meals on Wheels today.
I'm writing this for myself. Doing that helps me to sort out my reaction to a whole bunch of health stuff that happened this past year. I don't think I'll stop. I don't think I can.
My doctor told my wife Gladys yesterday after the biopsy procedure on the back of my tongue that on first glance there appeared to be no malignancy. But, of course, we are awaiting for the official pathology report on the tissue she obtained.
So what was it like for me, a 72-year-old guy to experience this? After waking up from a full-night's sleep, several things hit me face to face, so to speak. The list would have to include:
- My acknowledgment of the importance of prayer. Lots of people were praying for me and I know they continue to do so. I have to ask the question if God heard all those prayers and changed the nature of the growth on the back of my tongue. I realize that God is not like a roulette wheel where the prayers of people make it land on a better spot. But, I know that God hears those prayers and responds to them.
- The importance of family surrounding me as I was fraught with fear about having a malignancy on my tongue which I use for everything. My wife, my son and daughter and my daughter-in-law with their two kids were there. I know that my son-in-law would have been there too if it wasn't for having his kids in school and having to teach a class. I got strength from knowing that my family was there showing love that really touched my heart in a major way.
- Having trust in my doctor, a newly-minted ear, nose and throat specialist, who has a background in treating diseases of the tongue. Online, I looked at her academic and practice background. I was seriously impressed and so was my wife. I trusted her completely.
- Picking the right hospital: Sparrow Hospital in Lansing was amazing. I felt cared for as an individual. This allowed me to have confidence in them and what they said. Both my kids were born there and my elderly mother died there.
As I recover from this in the next couple of days, I have lots to be thankful for. I know that it's not over with yet. I still have a carotid artery that's blocked 100 percent and a case of glaucoma that's been going up and down.
But, I feel today a new perseverance from God that will carry me through whatever lies ahead. Have you listened to Matt Redmond's worship song 10,000 Reasons? I feel that I've been given more than twice that amount of blessings to praise him for. Seriously. And, I've gotten some help from Him to not forget that.
More to come.
I'm not making this up about having a growth on my tongue that needs to be biopsied and a goiter the size of an apple
My wife said it looked kinky when my ear, nose and throat doctor stuck about a twelve inch video cable up my nose and ran it down to my throat. It was a follow-up on the findings from a CAT scan and angiogram of my brain that I had last week.
Those tests were ordered after it was found that I have a blockage in my two carotid arteries, one is 100 percent blocked and the other, it was found, was 20 percent. As part of this, the imaging tests showed that I had a growth on the base of my tongue and in the neighborhood of that I had a goiter the size of an apple.
After talking about any throat symptoms I had, she pulled out the cable with a small video monitor on the end. It felt like a long worm crawling down the inside front of my face. It wasn't painful, but it felt weird, even though it brought some tears to my eyes.
Next step is surgery and getting the okay for a biopsy of the troubled part of my tongue. Because of my plugged carotids, I need to get my vascular doctor to okay my staying off blood thinners for a week and I have to get my primary care doctor to give his okay.
In the past year, I was smiling that I was content with my vision problems brought on by glaucoma and by a cornea that had to be transplanted.
What does all this mean? I'm not sure. Some of it could be just a normal part of aging with all this happening on a compressed schedule.
My prayer life has stepped up in the past two weeks for sure. I'm counting on God hearing those prayers for peace and for healing in all this. I know that he's there and I'm constantly reminding myself that he will be my shield.
What do you do when you've been bombarded with a bucketful of curve balls. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I talk to him and ask him for peace. How's that working? My Apple watch shows my Beats Per Minute right now being high as I write this.
My friend Ken and I recently read Philip Yancey's book Disappointment With God where he gets into Job and how he reacted to a whole bunch of really nasty stuff in his life. I pray that I can learn from his reaction.
In the past two days, I've found myself looking at people's tongues more and more. And I've looked at YouTube videos of surgeries where biopsies of the tongue are taken.
I am counting on being able to sense His presence as my ailment list gets longer.
Yesterday, we met with my vascular doctor who shared the results of my recent CAT scan and angiogram of my head and its attendant arteries. I have one that's fully blocked and the official reading on the other is 20 percent.
Because of the fully blocked carotid, I'm not a candidate for a surgical fix. It was explained to me that I might end up with great blood flow but at the price of a stroke. There, apparently, is overwhelming evidence that would be the outcome.
So, my future lies with keeping the 20 percent from growing. Because of alternate pathways for the blood flow, I can live with the partially clogged carotid. I have to take the blood thinner Plavix and stay healthy.
What happens if the partially closed artery becomes more blocked. His answer wasn't clear. I don't have to worry about that today.
Tomorrow, a specialist looks at the soft tissue mass in my larynx that was discovered during the CAT scan. What is it? I have no idea. Right now, I'm late for a walk through our back forty.
My routine is pretty much the same everyday. I get up put eyedrops in both eyes, grab a cup of coffee and stake out my side of the couch with my iPad Pro. As I walk down our hallway, I pass a photo collage that my wife Gladys put together. It's composed of pictures taken at this past summer's family vacation on Lake Michigan.
As I come out of our bathroom, I mentally say "good morning" to everybody and I do the same at bedtime. In the morning, I say it to myself because I don't want my semi-sleeping wife to think I asked her a question.
I also pray for their day that God would protect each of them, including their hearts which is their command center for how they deal with life.
There are many other family pictures in our condo, but the collage is the spark that gets me thanking God for my family.
I had just entered a video call where four of us--my son-Justin Thorp; my son-in-law Adam Jones and close friend Ken Alexander spend a half hour or so talking about our daily lives and then praying together.
With the video camera on, my cellphone rang. I noticed it was my primary care physician and I was hoping for news about a CT scan and angiogram of my carotid arteries that I had taken the day before. It was partially.
There was no news about my plugged carotids--one is a hundred percent and the other 50--but there was an early finding about a soft tissue mass found in my larynx. I spent the next several hours trying to figure out what that means or could mean.
Consider it was a Friday afternoon. I wanted more information, but I couldn't get through to a doctor. I talked to a snippy nurse who said she couldn't give that information over the phone and that the doctor wasn't available and I talked to a medical assistant who said the doctor had left by that time. So I was left to my own devices with the web.
I checked Google for information about cancer of the larynx. I matched some of the symptoms, but my daughter told me to be careful about going down rabbit holes that web information creates.
So here I am with apparent carotid artery disease and a lump of unknown composition in my larynx that could leave me talking like the cop on Chicago PD who talks like he has rocks in his mouth.
How am I taking all this?
It depends on the time you ask. I'm anxious and I am frustrated and I'm praying all the time. It's an ongoing conversation with God asking for his healing and for his leading and thanking him for everything that he's given me like my family.
I'm now more liable to write down the names of people who ask me to pray for them and more liable to pray for them in the middle of the night when I get up to pee.
I know God's there and he is listening to me and watching out for me. Am I nervous about this? You bet.
I felt like I was just tasered yesterday when the vascular surgeon told me there's nothing they could do for my clogged arteries in my neck, one is fully blocked and the other is less than 50 percent, he said. My wife Gladys was sitting next to me in the exam room when he told me that my hope for getting blood to my brain and to my eyes would be centered around a blood thinner that could probably clean out our kitchen sink.
A CLARIFICATION: The doctor pointed out that with the right carotid being less than 50 percent blocked that the Plavix blood thinner that he prescribed can be effective. There are apparently other sources of blood supply to the brain too. It's serious, but not dire.
Since learning that I have clogged carotids, I had been researching surgeries to unclog them. YouTube is filled with all kinds of video showing the amazing procedure where the carotid is cut open and the blockage is tweezed out. But, the doctor said that experience has shown that when one of the arteries is blocked 100 percent that the risks are too high. Strokes and death can easily be the result.
One last hope is an imaging test that can determine whether there's even a trickle of blood through the artery that's completely blocked. He said, the odds are against that happening.
So, what are my thoughts about this as I celebrate one whole week of being 72 years old? The words bucket list come to mind. Going forward, I need to be extra picky about what I do and think. At various points in my life, I felt more freedom to ignore doing certain things. And, right now, I'm carefully going through my list of what's important to me and what's not.
Let me emphasize that no one has said I'm on the verge of needing to cut the grass of my cemetery plot and no one has said I'm in imminent danger of having a stroke or a heart attack. But, I know the realities of what I'm dealing with as I move forward in my glaucoma and cornea journey.
As I'm moving ahead with all this and as I watch episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond for the umpteenth time, I'm trying to pay attention to what's important to me.
Christian songwriter and singer Matt Redmond has a song 10,000 Reasons. It's about giving praise and thanks to God at all stages of life from birth to old age and to death. I know that I've surpassed 10,000 reasons by many times. My wife, my kids, their spouses and my grandkids. My memory bank is filled with reasons.
God has blessed me greatly and I know it, even though I might not always show it. The Bible is always in my pocket and I open it throughout the day. Today, I'm asking for His help in giving my anxiety to him. I want him to carry it and I know he will. It's a promise that I'm betting my life on.
"May your will be done Lord."
I first drank a glass of Founders Backwoods Bastard at Horrocks in Lansing. My son and I had gone there as part of a tradition he and I started at Thanksgiving time when he and his family visited from out of state. Since then I've gone there with my son-in-law several times.
Drinking Backward Bastard changed my beer tastes forever. With it, I became familiar with barrel-aged beer where beer is left to meld with tastes of scotch and other tastes.
Fast Forwarding to this past weekend when I turned 72 and when my whole family came to celebrate our daughter and son-in-law, as part of a birthday gift, bought a four pack which is about the same cost as filling your gas tank on a SUV.
While sitting on our couch after a trip to the Jazz Festival in Downtown Detroit, we pulled out two bottles from my birthday gift. It was a grand taste and a fitting way to start year number 73.
I'd recommend Backwoods Bastard to beer lovers.
On my seventy-second birthday, two clogged carotid arteries and 12 family members coming to celebrate
As we get ready to celebrate my birthday today with the whole family, our two kids, their spouses and six grandkids-one is pre-born-I realize I have a whole lot to be thankful for. May God help me to remember that always.
While getting my problem right eye checked by one of my retina specialists for some vision challenges, this young doctor from Egypt suggested that I have my carotid arteries checked out as a possible source of the trouble. I noticed that on our most recent trip to visit our son and family in St. Louis that looking ahead my vision would fuzz out and the fuzz would go away when I moved my head.
Well, I got a doppler on Wednesday afternoon and by the time I got home and peed, I got a call that they found a blockage. I was told the doctor needed to see me first thing yesterday.
He told me that the preliminary read of the doppler test showed that I had a 100 percent blockage in one carotid and 50 percent in the other. Dr. El from LOEyecare in Lansing could have saved my life my urging me to get the test and making the referral. I was sobered by how this went undetected until this one ophthalmologist suggested the test. Next steps include seeing a vascular surgeon.
Throughout my right eye challenges, my wife has been alongside me. She's been to a whole bunch of appointments and exams and to each of my 10 eye surgeries. I know that she's reflecting the love that she receives through her faith in Jesus Christ. Her love for me is undeniable and I praise God for it.
Then there's my family. Our two kids and us has grown to a group of twelve. They are all coming to our condo to celebrate my birthday and to praise a God who watches over us all, including those of us with transplanted corneas and plugged carotids.
I'm looking forward to it all. It takes on a special meaning with this new realization of how fragile life can be.
Thank-you God for loving me.
We were in the middle of his driveway on a mountainside in western Bosnia when we tried out our diet Coke and Mentos rocket. My then five year-old grandson and I wanted to see how high we could make the pop go. It exploded and up to the second level of their house. That was fun. He enjoyed it and so did I.
This weekend, he and his siblings--one is pre-born--are coming to our house for a hot air balloon festival just down the road from us in Holt. No balloon rides this time. But, I'm searching for things to do with a now eight-year-old with an inquisitive mind.
I have a paperback book filled with science experiments for his age group. There are some possibilities. I've looked at personal drones. Most have a price tag that would rival a good used car and, I think, you need a permit to use them.
What still has the interest of him and his five-year-old sister is making K-cups. Even though the temperature is still hot, they like making their own hot chocolate from a Keurig cup.
There's always skydiving. That will probably have to wait til he's older.
What do you do with your grandkids?
It's happened before while driving in the car where I can be focusing on what's ahead and my vision momentarily fuzzes out on me. When we drove to St. Louis two weeks ago to visit our son and family I noticed it big time. The fuzz would disappear whenever I moved my head. To be extra careful, Gladys drove most of the way there and all the way back home.
I described this to my glaucoma surgeon during a regularly scheduled appointment when we returned. She suggested that I get my retina checked by our practice's specialist, Dr. El. Retina was fine, but he suggested that I get my carotid artery check for a blockage that potentially could interfere with my vision.
This follows my cornea transplant almost three months ago at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
How do I feel about this?
Scared! A little. And grateful, all at the same time. If I do have a plaque buildup in this artery that runs from the neck to my head and supplies blood to my eyes and optic nerve, a piece could break-off and I could crossover into stroke land.
Next steps are doppler like tests that take images of the carotid artery.
This week I read the story about Jesus walking on the water and how Peter stepped out of the boat to go to Jesus. He got distracted by the waves. He hollered out to Jesus to save him. If you hear loud shouts coming from my way, it's me calling for His help.
I just don't want to get distracted to the point where I take my eyes off him.